I admit it. I twitter. And since I’m a nerd, I follow TEA. A few months ago, I read a tweet about a free conference that TEA was presenting – the Texas Educator Exchange conference, or TEX conference. I had no idea what it was about – I focused on the truly important thing – it was free.
I had no idea what I was in for, but I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that it was all about technology immersion. Hooray! Just the type of professional development that I get excited about.
I was the only person (that I saw) from my district, but I ended up making some new friends. I first met up with *** who is with UT Brownsville. He shared some great information with me, and even gave me some constructive criticism when I was showing him one of my assessments in LMS. Then I met Donalyn Miller, a blogger from Keller ISD. I really liked seeing how an everyday teacher is using blogs. The information she presented was very accessible and do-able. Very accessible for teachers who were looking for a starting point for using tech in the classroom. She shared a 6 reasons why teachers should blog, and also some good blogs that I haven’t had a chance to peruse fully. She made me feel a little guilty that my blog rolls usually only include humor sites like Cake Wrecks.
A little later that first night, I was Twittering away, when someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked for my twitter page. It was just a little shocking to be around other teachers who not only KNEW what Twitter was, but who were using it as well! I met up a little later with ***, *** (from White Oak ISD), *** (from Red Oak ISD), and ***(the president of ATPE) that night and had some really great conversations.
The next morning, we were greeted with people from teh TEA, and I was quite impressed with Karen Kahan. I was happy to know that our campus, which was a Target Tech campus last year, was in the top 1% of the state of Texas when we completed our STAR chart in 2008. It’s really good for me to come to these conferences to see really just how advanced my campus and co-workers are.
TEA learned that for a school to successful with an immersion program, schools generally had the following qualitites:
- Positive attitude
- Administrative support
- High quality PD
- Held accountable for participation and use in the classroom – they had to try new things
- They had a vision for the technology
- The modeled the technology
- Expected proficiencies for students and teachers
- Monitored classroom practices
- Meaningful professional development (focused on instructional use, not just the technology)
- Tech support
- Stable network
I saw great things happening at campuses across the states – Bobby Garcia from New Technology High School in Manor put my classroom to shame – and really gave me some new ideas. I want to look more at their grading policies – it may be something we could adapt here at Vistas. Midway ISD has some great math teachers that shared some idea with us as well.
But I think the Bryan ISD had some ideas that I’d really like to share with my campus (and Klein) – I really liked the idea of technology retreats away from campus and with outside consultants. What we if had technology mentors for the high school teachers, kind of like TL2’s at the intermediate level? Even if we didn’t have money for a stipend, could we give professional development hours for that?
The big idea that I fully agreed with was that principals have to be ready for discipline problems with the computer. It’s an instructional tool. While there are going to be interesting and new issues that pop up with this new tool, we can’t just take it away when there is a problem. If a kid is using private e-mail to chat, we don’t take away the computer. Think about how we would deal with this problem if is wasn’t digital – would we take a away paper and pens from a student writing notes to a friend? We have to look at the big picture here – what is our goal? This really hit home with cell phone usage. I have heard of teachers who jump at the chance to take up call phones. For what purpose? Yes, they can be a distraction, but what is our ultimate goal? To send kids to the office or to teach them?
Some days, I feel like I am the queen of tech, and then other days, I just feel like a poseur.